Typical First Grade Science Curriculum

Caucasian boy looking a spider in classroom with magnifying glass

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Science encompasses several different topics, which include health and safety in the early grades in school. Other than health and safety, science topics that first graders can expect to study are the physical sciences, earth science, life science, and environmental science.

These are the same sciences that children begin exploring in their kindergarten science studies. In first grade, they build on what they have learned in kindergarten.

Your child will learn more than just scientific facts. He will also continue to build on the skills needed for scientific inquiry, such as making observations, organizing data, thinking analytically, and developing problem-solving skills. Here is what you can expect your child to learn by the end of first grade.

Physical Sciences

What topics are included in the physical sciences? Everything about the physical world: chemistry, physics, and astronomy. Earth sciences are also often included under the physical sciences, but they are also sometimes included as a separate topic. Some of what children learned in kindergarten about science will be covered again in first grade, usually in more detail.

Children will begin to explore topics in more depth, expanding their knowledge and understanding of the properties of certain materials and the ways in which these properties can be observed, measured, and predicted.

First-graders will learn to recognize:

  • Differences between solids and liquids
  • How batteries work and how magnets attract and repel
  • How vibrating objects produce sound and how sound travels
  • Objects that are made of one or more materials (paper, wood, metal, cloth, etc.)
  • Scientific words to describe physical properties (size, color, shape, and texture)
  • Similarities and differences in physical properties

First-graders will also practice sorting materials according to their properties and conduct investigations on unknown materials to gather information on its properties.

Observe and describe (orally or in writing):

  • How heating and cooling can change states of matter
  • How properties can be observed, described, and measured
  • How water changes from a liquid to a solid or from a solid to a liquid
  • What happens when different liquids are mixed with water
  • What happens when solids are mixed with water

Earth Sciences

Earth sciences include all the science involving the earth. That includes learning about the earth, the solar system, the sun, and how it affects the Earth's climate and weather.

They will explore information about the Earth itself, the rocks, soils, and bodies of water that make up the Earth's surface. Earth science teaches first-graders to recognize that the Earth is made up of solid rocks and soil that come in various colors and textures and retain varying amounts of water. They'll gain an appreciation for the earth and how to care for it.

First-graders will learn and observe:

  • Changes in the moon during the month
  • Effects of air pressure force on objects and materials
  • Movement of the sun during the day
  • Weather changes from day to day and from season to season

Additionally, kids are taught to identify:

  • Different cloud formations
  • The four seasons
  • Ocean activities such as waves and currents
  • Planets in the solar system and their positions around the sun

They'll learn to recognize the role of the sun in changes in weather, learn the instruments used by meteorologists to monitor air and weather conditions, and measure the weather by noting temperatures. Using scientific words, first-graders should be able to describe the properties of air and weather conditions and draw and write to organize and share observations.

Life Sciences

The life sciences are about life on the planet, both plant and animal life. Children will learn to:

  • Appreciate the diversity of life forms in the animal kingdom
  • Describe plant and animal parts that enable survival
  • Distinguish between living vs. non-living things
  • Identify the life cycle plants and animals
  • Recognize that most living things come from a male and a female parent
  • Understand what living things need to survive (air, water, food, sunlight)

Life science teaches kids about the stages of development, from birth to adulthood to reproducing to death. First-graders learn about the term "animal habitat" and how to describe some habitats. They'll get a chance to observe the behaviors of insects at different stages of their life cycle and identify different life sequences, like metamorphosis.

Health and Safety

As children get older, they need to become more responsible which includes learning more about their bodies and how to take care of them. That means understanding the value of nutrition, exercise, and safety. Some areas that may be discussed include:

  • Car and fire safety rules
  • How the body works (how does a cut heal?)
  • Physical activities
  • The purpose of safety rules
  • Safety rules for the playground and the street
  • Sources of food
  • Systems that make up the human body (circulatory, muscular, skeletal, nervous, and digestive)
  • Vocabulary for describing pain and symptoms of illness and how to use it

Scientific Investigation and Experimentation

When children study science in school, they begin to learn about scientific methods such as:

  • Classification and establishing order
  • Designing and conducting an experiment
  • Explaining data
  • Investigations
  • Observation and measurement
  • Predictions
  • Questioning
  • Representing data on graphs or in tables

By Carol Bainbridge
Carol Bainbridge has provided advice to parents of gifted children for decades, and was a member of the Indiana Association for the Gifted.